Category Archives: Field Trip

Blue Tongue Lizard giving birth

Tiliqua scincoides

Here’s an animal that every Australian knows. The Blue Tongue Lizard is common in bushland and suburban backyards of Eastern Australia, but even the familiar has the capacity to surprise as I found out with this one!

The family was visiting friends in Gerringong 1 1/2 hrs south of Sydney. The kids came running in from the back yard saying they they had found a snake. We went out to take a look and found what was clearly a Blue Tongue Lizard half obscured under the back step. It’s legs were tucked under it’s body so it’s understandable that the kids though it was a snake. There was a small crowd of us watching it when it started to slowly lumber out of it’s hiding spot. The lizard seemed quite fat even for a Blue Tongue which I commented on, then all of a sudden a fully formed baby lizard popped out from the underside! It was a mum giving birth!

Blue Tongue Lizard giving birth. Was not expecting to see this at all, I thought Blue Tongues laid eggs

I’d assumed that Blue Tongues laid eggs like almost every other reptile, but a quick search confirmed that they, along with Red Bellied Black Snakes do indeed give birth to live young.

With enough food Blue Tongues are able to breed every year. They have litters of around 10 young at a time, but have been known have up to 25. Once born the young are independent and will disperse within a few days.

There are a number of species of Blue Tongue, they are found in Australia, New Guinea and Indonesia. I believe this one was a Eastern Blue-tongued Lizard. Eastern Blue-tongued Lizards are found within a few hundred Kms of the coast all around North, South and Eastern Australia. They are a silvery colour with dark banding across their body and tail, they can grow up to 60cm. If handled roughly by the tail Blue Tongues may drop their tail. The tail stump rapidly heals and a shorter regenerated tail grows back after a while. It looks like this has happened to the mum in the picture.

Resources and References

Back to Muogamarra

For fathers day day this year the family took a trip back to Muogamarra Nature Reserve. Muogamarra is located about an hour north of Sydney just off the old Pacific highway past Cowan. Visiting is a bit of a treat as the reserve is only open to the public for 6 weeks per year. It’s closed at other times to protect sensitive natural and cultural heritage areas.

It rained a bit on the way up but by the time we got there it had cleared. much better than last year. We opted to do the point loop trail. Even though we’d done it before it was the best suited for the time we had. Also one of the Nation Parks and Wildlife ladies said that the wildflowers were especially stunning this year and could not be missed! The point loop is an easy 2km loop with a lookout over the Hawkesbury half  way along.

The flowers didn’t disappoint, there were seas of yellow bush peas and pink wax flowers. Also a stunning Waratah by the side of the trail, a much better specimen than the one we saw last year.

Waratah growing by the side of the trail.
Pink wax flowers. Good to be able to identify them after the post a few weeks ago

We had a packed lunch at the lookout, the view was great, it looks north towards the Hawkesbury over an ancient maar volcano. It would have been a relaxing if it wasn’t for the kids antagonizing each other, running toward the cliff edge and destroying and hacking at the bush in front of the Nation Parks staff.

At the lookout at Muogamarra

Lunch at the lookout

Next year I’d really like to take the crater walk down into the old volcano, it’s a longer walk but I’m sure the family could do it, we just need to get away early in the morning.

Expedition up Rocky Creek

I wrote an earlier post on a spot at the tidal limit of middle harbour creek called Bungaroo where Governor Phillip and an exploration party camped on April 16th 1788.

It appears John ( who inspired my original post ) is still hard at work trying to uncover old records and get some official recognition for Bungaroo. As part of his research John said he’s now considering that the Bungaroo site of Governor Phillip’s April 16th camp may have been at the tidal limit of Rocky Creek rather than Middle Harbour Creek.

It sounded plausible, and a good excuse to head up Rocky Creek again for a closer look!

To get there I headed north on the trail that follows the west bank of Middle Harbour River.  Upon hitting Rocky Creek the trail heads west to where the creek can be crossed on foot near the tidal limit. When I got there the tide was low, the fresh water was cascading into the salt just below the crossing. At this point I left the trail and kept heading up Rocky Creek. About 100m further upstream the creek deepened to the point where I could not see the bottom, then a little way past this was a lip in the rock ( about 50cm high ) where the fresh water cascaded down. I’ll have to go back to confirm but I reckon this could be the point where fresh water meets salt when the tide is high. With the cascading fresh water meeting the salt at a deep pool this looks like a plausible alternate location of Governor Phillip’s Bungaroo camp.

Looking west on Rocky Creek. Possible location of where fresh water meets salt when the tide is high.
Just above the cascade looking east. The lip of the cascade is barely visible at the bottom of the photo

I found some documents on the Manly Council site relating to Governor Phillips expedition and his April 16th camp.

Survey of Middle Harbour 1788

Finding the Right Track

They report that low tide on April 16th 1788 was at 11:16am, which would make high tide at around 5pm. The same documents recount Surgeon White’s ( one of the expedition members ) notes as saying they reached the tidal limit where fresh meets salt at 4pm, close to high tide.

“About four o’clock in the afternoon we came to a steep valley, where the flowing of the tide ceased, and a fresh-water stream commenced. Here, in the most desert, wild and solitary seclusion that the imagination can form any idea of, we took up our abode for the night; dressed our provisions, washed our shirts and stocking, and turned our inconvenient situation to the best advantage in our power.”

Surgeon White, April 16th, 1788.

So it looks like they did arrive at the spot near to high tide, I will have to return at high tide to observe where fresh water meets salt. Of course not all high tides are equal, and we’re looking back to a time where mean sea levels were around 20cm lower than they are now.

Freshwater pool on Rocky Creek just upstream of the cascade.

Muogamarra nature reserve

I found out about Muogamarra nature reserve from a friend a few years ago and have been meaning to visit for a while. Muogamarra is located near Cowan just north of Sydney. Due to the sensitive nature of the local environment and cultural sites it’s only open to the public for 6 weekends every year during August – September.

I made it out there with the family last weekend. Even though it was pouring with rain we managed to have a good time.

To get there you take the old Pacific Highway and turn off a bit past Cowan, there’s a short drive on a fire trail and you’re there. Maybe the rain scared away the casual visitors, the place was a bush enthusiasts paradise, there was a photographic display of local plants and wildflowers, a small army of National Parks volunteers and a large supply of information sheets on what to see.

After talking to the volunteers we decided to do the 2km point loop trail, an easy flat walk along the ridge top. Chris, one of the volunteers offered to come on the walk with us.  Chris provided commentary  on what we were seeing and what to look out for, he was very knowledgeable and made the walk fun for the kids.  Thanks Chris!

I learnt a few new plants, and the proper pronunciations of a few old ones ( It’s hard when you only ready the names in a book )

We only saw a very small section of the reserve, it was clear there was so much more, we will be back again.

The lookout on the point loop trail at  Muogamurra Nature Reserve. Peats Bight on the Hawkesbury River is in the background.
Red Triangle Slug spotted on the trail. Identified by Chris, it was the first time he’d seen one, first time for me too.
A Waratah just about to flower. Such an iconic plant, and our state flower, the first time I’ve seen one in the wild.

Muogamurra on the NPWS